February 21st, 2014 by Leonard Klie

Just when it seems that the social media dead horse can’t be beaten any more, new research forces us to get out the riding crop yet again.

Now I’m a strong animal rights advocate and frown on analogies that draw on references to animal cruelty, but that is the clearest way I could think of to point out that  companies still haven’t gotten the message. (And, since the horse is already dead, I can safely say that no animals have been harmed in the making of this blog post.)

The latest bit of research to uncover this is a survey  by Social Media Marketing University that found that more than half of all brands still don’t have an effective strategy in place to manage potentially damaging social commentary.

Even more alarming, the survey found that 23.4 percent of brands not only lack a solid strategy to manage negative social commentary, but they don’t have plans to develop one. The research found that 24.5 percent of brands are in the process of developing a strategy, and 7.6 percent have strategies in place that are currently proving to be ineffective. 

One of the biggest problems, according to the research, is being slow to respond or not responding at all when customers post something to a social media site. While consumers expect an answer to their social media complaints within an hour, the SMMU survey found that only 17.6 percent of brands strive to meet this expectation. Most brands (52.2 percent) respond within 24 hours, while an even more startling 21.4 percent rarely or never respond.

So what’s the harm? you ask. The SMMU research found that 26.1 percent of brands’ reputations have been tarnished as a result of negative social media posts; 15.2 percent lost customers, and 11.4 percent lost revenue. Ouch!!!!

ostrichWhen I look for something that could explain why brands are still ignoring social media, the only thing that comes to mind is that perhaps they don’t think their customers are talking about them on social media.

If that’s the case, the numbers tell a far different story: 58.2 percent of brands reported receiving customer complaints via social media occasionally; 10.9 percent receive them somewhat often; and 4.9 percent receive them very often.

John Souza, founder of SMMU, has another idea. “So many brands are buying into the ‘friending equals spending’ mentality,” he said in a statement. “They want the benefits of social media but aren’t truly aware of the investment of effort that’s required to see a return. As a result, this lack of effort rarely produces desired results and can lead to alienation of customers, fans, and followers. It can even escalate to a backlash of negativity.”

Luckily, “99 percent of the things brands are doing wrong in social media are fixable,”  Souza said.

So there’s your homework for the weekend: Get your head out of the sand.

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